Pacification for Peace


THE task of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference was to draft proposals by which the present grand alliance of the United Nations can be transformed into a universal society of nations. The deliberations led to the conclusion that this will require not one international organization but three international organizations — the first embryonic, and the other two provisional.

The first is the General Assembly, which is vested with the right and duty of forming and establishing de jure institutions and agencies designed to promote progress and peace through law among all the nations.

The second, not named in the Dumbarton draft or discussed at the Conference, but definitely provided for, is the organization of victors for the specific purpose of enforcing the terms imposed upon our present enemies — principally, of course, Germany and Japan.

The third is the Security Council, which is not intended to concern itself with the enemy states but with the prevention of war. I venture to believe that its present structure and power are provisional and peculiar because of the fact that the world is still divided into victors, vanquished, and neutrals. Therefore, though there will always be need of a Security Council, the present form of it is destined to be provisional.

These three organizations are all of them the creation of the wartime coalition of the United Nations. They are related in the sense that the proposed structure of the peace is a tripod which could not stand if one of its legs were missing. The General Assembly, which must include all “peace-loving” states, including the honest neutrals as well as nations not actually at war with our enemies, could not enforce the demilitarization of the enemy states. The victors who must enforce the surrender terms do not include all the nations which must participate in a general international society. Finally, during the period which we may call the Era of Pacification, extraordinary precautions must be taken to make sure that the international society which will be forming through the General Assembly is not disrupted by threats of war. This is the function of the Security Council in its present form.


No ONE can now foresee, and the Conference made no attempt to predict, what the Security Council will become if the transitional period, the Era of Pacification, ends in a generally accepted, and therefore an enduring, settlement. Nor can anyone now foresee what use the General Assembly will make of its opportunity — whether it will create boldly and wisely the organs of a better international life, or whether it will sink to sterile debate and small maneuvering.

What we can say is that the future belongs to the General Assembly if the national states and the people rise to the opportunity: it is the constituent assembly to which are entrusted the best hopes of mankind. It will play a role in the establishment of the court or courts of international justice. It can develop, by debate which would be quasi-legislative in character, resolutions that lay down the principles of international conduct. It is to be the parent of many and guardian of all of the international organizations devoted to the general welfare of the nations. It is to elect a committee of eighteen of its members which, under the title of the Economic and Social Council, is to be in effect a responsible cabinet for initiating and carrying out international agreements to “facilitate solutions of international economic, social and other humanitarian problems, and to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

That the General Assembly is not designed to be, as some have hastily called it, a mere debating society is shown by the agreement on voting in the Assembly. “Important decisions,” which are defined as “including recommendations with respect to the maintenance of peace and security; election of [the six non-permanent] members of the Security Council; election of members of the Economic and Social Council; admission of members, suspension of the rights and privileges of members, and expulsion of members; and budgetary questions, should be made by a two-thirds majority of those present and voting.” It is then provided that “on other questions, including the determination of additional categories of questions to be decided by a two-thirds majority, the decision of the General Assembly shall be made by a simple majority vote.”

The accusation has been made, for example by Miss Dorothy Thompson, that the Dumbarton proposals are “an intolerable travesty on the ideals for which we are fighting,” and the gravamen of this charge is that five great powers have special authority in the Security Council for the prevention of war. We must examine this special authority. But before we do that, let us fix in our minds the facts about the General Assembly of all the peaceloving nations. Let us note the wide scope and variety of the matters which are in its jurisdiction — all forms of international collaboration, all questions of human rights, the critical problem of admitting and expelling states from the international community, and the power to make recommendations, which is the power to appeal to the conscience and public opinion of the world, “with respect to the maintenance of peace and security.” The General Assembly has the right to create organs dealing with any other matters — for example, with the whole complex problem of the international future of colonies and dependent peoples.

Within the General Assembly the great powers as such have no special rights, though of course great powers will in the nature of things generally exercise more influence not only because they are greater in the military sense but also because of their greater numbers, their geographic extension, their resources, and because of the influence they exercise among their smaller neighbors. In the General Assembly all nations are juridically equals: any one of them, or even a state which has not joined the organization, “may bring any dispute or situation” to the attention of the General Assembly, and also of the Security Council, Thus while the great powers have special authority, which we shall be examining later, to refuse to take action in the Security Council, no state in the world can be denied a hearing. Moreover, the General Assembly will elect six rotating members out of the eleven members of the Security Council; and therefore, in the Security Council, nothing can be discussed or decided which the General Assembly is ignorant of. Finally, the General Assembly has the right to receive, and therefore to demand, “annual and special reports from the Security Council.” It can debate these reports, and therefore it can hold the Security Council morally accountable for its acts of commission and omission.

When we survey the potentialities of the General Assembly, we must agree that they are very great. Except as to the enforcement of peace in what I have ventured to call the Era of Pacification, the power of the General Assembly is not limited by any special authority of the great powers. The power of the General Assembly is limited only by the capacity of its members to agree, on important matters by two-thirds majority and on others by a simple majority, and by their conceptions, which are subject to modification and growth, of what is a domestic and what is an international matter.


ONLY when we have appreciated the fact that the General Assembly is the embryo of the permanent international society can we appraise correctly the structure, the powers, the functions, and the unresolved problems of the Security Council. For the Council is what it is because a permanent international society does not yet exist, and must still be formed, and cannot be completed until the distinction between victors, enemies, and neutrals has been liquidated.

The recognition of the fact that after a great war there must needs be an era of pacification, and therefore special and provisional arrangements, is the fundamental difference between the Wilsonian conception of 1919 and the Dumbarton conception of 1944. An understanding of this difference is of crucial importance. For the Dumbarton proposals rest on a fundamental decision to avoid the cardinal errors which, in the judgment of most expert and responsible students, gave the League of Nations a bad start.

President Wilson began by insisting that the wartime coalition, known then as the Allied and Associated Powers, be dissolved into the new international organization. He insisted that the enforcement of the treaties imposed on Germany and other enemy stales be amalgamated with the Covenant of the League. Thus the power to enforce the enemy treaties was subordinated to the power of the League. Thus the weakness of the League became the weakness of the enforcement of the treaty, and the League which proposed to be a universal society became contaminated with the consequences of the terms imposed, but ineffectively enforced, on Germany and other enemy states.

President Wilson need not have made the decision to amalgamate the Covenant and the treaties. On November 29, after the armistice of November, 1918, and before the President ‘s departure for Paris in December, M. Clemenceau instructed the French Ambassador in Washington to deliver a memorandum which stated: —

It seems that the labors of the Congress [i.e. the Peace Conference] should be divided into two main series: the settlement of the war properly so-called, and the organization of the Society of Nations. The examination of the second question no doubt calls for the settlement of the first. Furthermore, the settlement of the concrete questions should not be confounded with the enforcement of the stipulations of general public laws. Besides, that dist inction is made necessary by the fact that the enemy has no right to discuss the terms that will be imposed upon him by the victors, and that the neutrals will only be called in exceptional cases to attend the sessions when the belligerents will fix the peace terms while all the peoples, whether belligerents, neutrals, or enemies, will be called to discuss and take part in the principle of the Society of Nations. (Italics mine.)

In 1919 this French proposal — to separate the German treaty from the Covenant — was rejected by President Wilson. In 1944, except that no one anticipates that there will soon be a German or a Japanese government with which any principles of public law can be discussed, the same stone which the builders of 1919 refused is become the headstone of the corner. This time the wartime coalition — called the United Nations — is not to be dissolved at the armistice but is to be preserved by enlarging it, transforming it, and adapting it to the era of pacification and beyond that to the era of an enduring peace.

The wartime coalition of the United Nations operates now under the Declaration by United Nations (January 1, 1942), the Moscow, Cairo, and Teheran declarations and agreements, and a complex network of emergency contracts and measures, such as the Combined Boards, the Lend-Lease protocols, the Pan-American resolutions, and many others. Though many of these compacts open vistas into the future, they are designed for the effective waging of a coalition war. When organized hostilities cease in Europe and Asia, there will still be an overriding need to keep the United Nations united for the purpose of pacification and of establishing a settled peace. Our need then is to agree on the legal instruments by which the nations now allied in war can best remain united after the armistice.


WE HAVE already seen that the Dumbarton Oaks Conference agreed on the draft proposal of a charter for two distinct, though related, international organizations: the General Assembly, which is also to participate in establishing the judicial branch of the world society, and the Security Council. We have seen that the Conference contemplated other compacts besides those outlined in its draft proposals. There will be the treaty which deals with Germany, the treaty which deals with Japan, and no doubt other treaties which deal with t heir satellites. These treaties will lie t he business not of the general world organization, nor even of all the nations which have declared war on Germany or Japan: they will be the special business of those powers which have played a substantial part in the military action or are directly involved in the enforcement of the special regime under which the enemy nat ions must live until they are accepted again as equals among “ peace-loving states.”

For this reason the German surrender treaty will not be enforced, let us say, by China. For China, having no direct interest in Europe, and unable to exert force in Europe, could exercise no responsibility. On the other hand, not only France but also Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and no doubt also Norway and Denmark, have a right in and are needed for the administration of the German control. In Asia, on the contrary, some of these European nations have no interest and can discharge no responsibility. But China has a vital interest in the control of Japan, and so in different proportions have other nations which are present in the Pacific.

The administration of these treaties will, therefore, be vested in the nations which can and must administer them if they are to be administered successfully. They are by no means all the nations that will be represented in the General Assembly, nor are they as respects Japan the identical nations as respects Germany. This fundamental decision means that special groupings of specially interested states will be charged with the pacification of Germany and of Japan. They will all be members of the General Assembly. But their rights and powers will not rest upon the Dumbarton Charter but upon conventions and treaties dealing specifically with the enemy states.

It is evident that these special regimes are provisional: unless at some time, and in fact within this generation, Germany for certain, and if possible Japan, can be restored to equality, we shall have failed again, as we did from 1919 to the rise of Hitler, to pacify the world which is now divided in war. The Dumbarton Charter proposals suppose a successful pacification of our present enemies, and therefore they leave open the door to a happier future. They contemplate that as occupation of enemy territory approaches its end, and the special controls can be relaxed, the special regimes for enemy states may be, though there is no stipulation that they must be, liquidated into the general world organization. This would be the preliminary to the restoration of equality and of reconciliation. It would mark the end of the Era of Pacification and the inauguration of peace.

When we have appreciated this fundamental conception of the post-war world, we are in a position to understand why in the Security Council the five major powers are to be granted special authority. The Security Council, I must repeat, as such is not intended to concern itself with the enemy states. Its function in the Era of Pacification is to prevent irreconcilable armed conflict among the United Nations. Its special features, namely the peculiar authority of the great powers in certain questions, arise from the need to prevent an alignment on issues which could disrupt the enforcing and pacifying powers. For unless there is assured peace among the victors while the enemy states are on probation, and while the permanent international society is being developed through the General Assembly, and while judicial procedures are being established by the international court of justice, then all our hopes must fail and all our sacrifices be in vain.

In the minds of the governments that participated at Dumbarton Oaks it has been deemed of overriding importance that, after hostilities, the world be assured at least one generation of complete security from the danger of war. Without that the world will not. be pacified, will not be rehabilitated and restored, will not be able to undertake any of the necessary, any of the possible, constructive works of peace. For this guaranty of security some price must be paid: the price asked by the Dumbarton Conference is that when the smaller nations of the world assemble to consider the draft, they recognize the special character of the Era of Pacification and assume the good faith of Great Britain, the Soviet Union, France, China, and the United States, and grant them for the time being, at least, a special position because they have responsibility that they alone can now discharge.

Is it too great a price? That is the question which many earnest men and women, including Miss Dorothy Thompson, are asking themselves. I think it is not too great a price. For if the great powers are faithful to their trust, the world will enter into a period of true peace. And if they are unfaithful to their trust, what legal formulae can be invented that would avert the tragic consequences?


IT is in the Security Council, not in the General Assembly, that the Dumbarton draft gives a special position to five powers. In the first place, they are to be permanent members whereas the other six members of the Council are to be elected for twoyear terms, and are not to be eligible immediately for re-election. This is a special privilege. But there appears to be no objection to it since it is selfevident that in a council concerned with the prevention of war the leading powers capable of waging war must always be present. A council which was concerned, let us say, with wheat would be ineffective unless all important wheat-growing countries participated in its decisions. For the same reason a council concerned with the prevention of war must have permanently present the states which are leading military powers both in the Western and the Eastern world — namely Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States; it must have present the leading military power of Europe (after the reduction of Germany), namely France, and the leading military power of Eastern Asia (after the reduction of Japan), namely China.

So indispensable are these five powers to an international organization today, and in the future which we can now foresee, that the organization cannot come into existence without their unanimous agreement. The American Constitution went into effect when nine out of thirteen states had ratified it. The Charter, which would be based on the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, could not go into effect unless all of the five had agreed to it. The agreement of many other states is necessary to make the organization workable. But no one of the five, who are to be permanent members, can refuse if the organization is to have any reasonable prospect of success.

We see, therefore, that the rule of unanimity among the five great powers is at this time inherent in the project of any organization to enforce the peace. The principal questions which the Conference did not resolve, and has left to negotiation and to public debate, turn on how far the rule of unanimity among the five — admittedly necessary to found the organization — is to be applied after it has been founded. There were differences of view among the delegations at Dumbarton Oaks, and within some of the delegations. All were agreed that for certain decisions it was necessary to have the rule of unanimity, which gives each of the great powers a veto. It was as to how far the rule should be extended to other decisions in the Security Council that no agreement was reached.

Yet all are sure to agree that the Council should not be able to call upon any one of the five to employ its military forces without its consent. Without this provision the Charter could not be ratified in the United States, nor as a matter of fact in any other country which could be called upon to send its soldiers into armed conflict. Even if the unthinkable happened, and the Council were given the right to decide the use of force by majority vote, nothing but confusion would come of it. Russians would not fight if the Soviet government had voted against their fighting, nor British soldiers if the British government had voted against it, nor Americans if the United States government had voted against it.

This would, in fact, hold for all other powers. No vote of the Security Council could compel Canadian, Australian, Belgian, Dutch, Brazilian, Mexican troops to fight if their own government were opposed to their fighting. The only real difference between the big powers and the smaller is, in this matter, that peace can be enforced without the assistance of all the smaller powers whereas it cannot be enforced without the consent of all, or without the active participation of practically all, the five great powers. I say “practically all” because China’s consent is morally necessary in Europe, if the action is to be that of a world organization, but her material participation is not necessary.

This is the natural basis and the moral justification for recognizing formally a distinction between the great military powers and the others. The distinction does not contravene the principle of the juridical equality of all sovereign states any more than, let us say, progressive income taxation based on ability to pay, or selective service based on ability to fight, contravenes the principle of the equal rights of persons. In their ability to wage war and their ability to enforce peace, the great military powers are not in fact equal with all other states, and a rule which recognizes their greater responsibility, and is designed to permit them to discharge it, cannot fairly be opposed on moral grounds by those who favor an organization to enforce peace.


As A matter of fact few have objected to giving the five permanent powers the right of veto in the use of their own military forces. Moreover, there will, I think, be no disagreement that in disputes among smaller nations the use of force by the five military powers should be only by their unanimous consent. Here the rule of unanimity, though formally a special privilege of the great powers, is obviously a very substantial guaranty that the smaller powers will not have force used against them in an arbitrary or dictatorial manner. Substantial difference of opinion exists only as to what the Charter shall say about measures of enforcement in a dispute between a smaller power and one of the five great powers.

This is the knottiest problem which the Conference did not settle and it has been opened to public discussion in the hope that it will somehow be resolved. (I am writing early in November, and it is possible that before these lines are published some agreed solution may have been arrived at. I must beg the reader to make the proper allowances.) At the close of the Conference two apparently irreconcilable views of this problem had been brought forward. One, which was argued by the British and the Chinese delegations, and supported, though it had not been proposed, by the American, was that as a matter of principle no state, great or small, should have the right to veto a decision of the Council if it was a party to the dispute. The other, which was argued by the Soviet delegation, and is not in principle different from the position taken in repeated votes by the United States Senate ever since the League of Nations debate, was that the Soviet Union could not subscribe to a Charter which envisaged the right of the nations of the world to wage war against it.

The moral argument was between those who held that there is no justice if a party at interest is the judge of its own cause, or can veto the execution of a judgment against itself, and, on the other hand, those who contended, as the Russians did, that unless the new organization is based on mutual trust among the principal guardians of the peace, it has no effective moral bond to make it work. The question was: Shall the Charter assume that bad faith among the guardians of the peace is possible, and prepare for it, or shall it assume that their good faith is indispensable if the peace is to be maintained by force?

In examining this issue we must bear in mind that the enforcement of peace against a great power is a total war. It differs not in degree but in kind from the enforcement of peace among smaller military nations. For when a great power, itself one of the policemen, has to be coerced, the police force is split in two and arrayed against itself. It is only when the policemen act together that enforcement is not the equivalent of a great world war, but is a police function requiring only the show, and in rare cases the use, of limited military forces.

The draft proposals do not contemplate military provisions for the conduct of a great total war. They contemplate the negotiation of conventions by which the members make certain limited forces available, not their whole unlimited fighting power. Such forces, which are the only ones that are to be obligated, would be useless against a great power: they would be worse than sending a boy on a man’s errand, in that to send limited forces against a great power is to invite a bloody disaster. No responsible person proposes that the whole force of the United States, or of any other state, be obligated; and as an inevitable consequence, enforcement against a great military power cannot be contemplated. That it is not contemplated is confirmed by the fact that the Security Council is to have a Military Staff Committee which is responsible “for the strategic direction of any armed forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council.” It is evident that such a Military Staff Committee could not make strategic plans for war among the members of the Committee.

The fact, therefore, that the coercion of a great power is not a police function, but war, is the determining reason why the Security Council cannot assume the possibility of, or make provision for, the need to coerce any of the five victorious great powders. A provision of that sort would either raise expectations sure to be disappointed, or it would invite the use of the instrumentalities of the Charter to mobilize for another World War. It would be unwise to make such a provision, and if this makes it appear that the Charter does not button up every conceivable contingency, let us remember that our own Constitution could not provide for the contingency of a war among groups of states.

The Conference did not actually decide that a great power shall not be coerced by the international organization. It left the issue open and unsettled; but whatever formula may be agreed to, we shall do well to recognize that, no formula can in fact provide for the coercion of Great Britain, the Soviet Union, or the United States.

There is no doubt that this appears to give the great powers a special privilege and a special immunity. All will agree that even the appearance of inequality is disagreeable. The question is whether an apparent equality, supposing agreement could be had on it, would not be insincere and therefore just as disagreeable. Only those who are prepared to demonstrate that the new organization would, could, and should be able to wage a great war among the nations now fighting as allies can really contend that the special position of the great powers is, in the future we can now foresee, intolerable.

In the argument over this issue the question arose as to whether a great power could not only veto the coercion of itself but could also veto the examination of disputes in which it was a party and the use of the machinery of peaceable settlement. On this question it may be said, I believe, that if it is wholly impracticable to provide for the coercion of a great power, it is equally impracticable to provide for the stifling of discussion of disputes involving a great power. The Charter could never give any power the right to censor the diplomatic discussion of the nations of the world, nor if such a right were granted, could it be made effective. If a dispute arises which touches the moral conscience of the world, and the vital interests of member states, the very attempt to veto the discussion would place the great power in the wrong. Moreover, whatever the Charter said about the right of veto in the Security Council, nothing could or would stop the peoples of the world in the General Assembly and through normal diplomatic channels from dealing with the question.

The conclusion to which a realistic appraisal of the facts leads us is, therefore, that peace cannot be enforced against a great power but that no great power can be not accountable to the Society of Nations. This conclusion is consistent with the basic premise that the peace of the world in the coming age must rest on the assumption that the great powers can be trusted, and that the evidence of their good faith is that they entertain no international purposes which may not be examined by their associates.


THIS is, of course, my own conclusion: it remains to be seen how this complex issue will be resolved. Whatever the formula which resolves it, in substance there will be no coercion of a great power and there will be opportunity for the discussion of all disputes. As we ponder this problem in the United States we should, I think, bear in mind that the position of the Soviet Union today is identical in principle with that taken for nearly twenty-five years by the majority of the Senate of the United States. If we are now prepared to waive any part of our own right to interpose a veto when we are a party to a dispute, it is only fair to note — and this is the heart and substance of the whole matter — that we can do this with the comfortable knowledge that we can always count on Great Britain, or France, or China, and probably on all three, to stand by us. We cannot be isolated in the councils of the great powers, and neither can Great Britain or France. We must, therefore, as a matter of equity, which looks beneath the forms of equality, understand the feelings of the Soviet Union, which has been isolated in the past and is not yet free of suspicion about the future.

Moreover, on the main question, which is whether the Charter shall contemplate the coercion of a great power, we must ask ourselves whether we really wish to be placed in the position where under the Charter we might have to wage war against a great power or default on our pledges. That is the issue which could confront us if we insisted on abolishing the right to veto enforcement when a great power is party to a dispute. If the Soviet Union, for example, were the party to the dispute and could not interpose a veto, then we could face the awful dilemma of war with the Soviet Union or the dishonoring of our obligations.

This dilemma cannot arise if the great powers retain this veto. For then the issue in the Council cannot be the issue of war among the great powers; the issue can only be the enforcement of peace among states that can be policed without precipitating a great war. Once enforcement is reduced to a police function, because it cannot involve the use of large military forces, there is no longer a difficult constitutional question whether the President, through his delegate in the Council, may enforce peace. The precedents are extensive and conclusive that he may. Only against a great power would enforcement become in the real sense of the word a war.

Therefore, the rule of unanimity among the great powers as to the use of force, which means their right, to veto a United Nations war against themselves, eliminates the question of whether the American delegate may vote for war without a vote of Congress. For under the rule of unanimity he would never be asked and would never be able to vote for a war: he could vote only for police operations requiring a small contribution of the standing forces of the United States to a combined action.